SALT LAKE CITY — Buy two chickens for mom.
Shayla Pittenger and Olivia McInerny had one last item to tick off their checklist before they headed to the Salt Lake City International Airport Tuesday afternoon to fly home to California for the Christmas break. So, they stopped in at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building next to Temple Square and bought fowls from a vending machine.
"This was our mom's Christmas dream, to come to the machines and buy two chickens," Pittenger said.
Shoppers are donating money for cows, polio vaccines or other items such as an "empowerment pack for five girls" for the needy around the world this Christmas season at #LightTheWorld vending machines sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in five locations in the United States, England and the Philippines.
The giving machines had generated 52,279 contributions worth $1,332,128 in charitable donations through Monday, church spokesman Daniel Woodruff said. That's more than double what was raised when the machines debuted last year in a single location.
Lisa Tanner lives in Huntington Beach, California, far from any of the charity vending machines. Her daughters live in Provo, so they made the stop in Salt Lake City on the way home to see her. Pittenger, 27, paid $21 while McInerny, 21, shot a video with her phone.
"It's like my mom was here," McInerny said. "She'll be really happy. I came last year but the line was an hour long. This is a great thing the church does. I think these vending machines should be put everywhere."
The #LightTheWorld machines debuted in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building — the former Hotel Utah — during the 2017 Christmas season and raised more than $550,000 for local and international charities, according to Vending Times.
The church added four new locations this year — the church's Manhattan New York Temple site in New York City's Lincoln Square; the Water Tower Plaza in Gilbert, Arizona; the Hyde Park Chapel visitors' center in London; and the SM Mega Mall in Manila, Philippines.
Givers can purchase items ranging from $2 (fingerling fishes) to $210 (school in a box). Donating a cow costs $150. Many of the donations go to global charity partners of LDS Charities. Others go to local charities, such as those for eye exams or glasses.
The charities reserve the right to use the money donated through the vending machines for items or services of greater need.
On Tuesday afternoon, an Activity Days group from the Hillcrest Third Ward in Sandy stood in line to make donations.
"We were doing a fun Activity Days and we thought it would be fun to come here and donate stuff," said Nora Jackson, 8, who bought a school girl uniform. Her brother, Eli, 6, bought a baby resuscitation kit.
Their mother, Jennifer Jackson, bought a sewing machine.
"I'm a seamstress and bridal designer by trade, and I've been able to see over the years how those skills can support a family," she said. "My husband lost his job a couple of times and my alterations were able to support our family. We've been really blessed this year, and I'm grateful to pass it along."
Natalia Shepherd, 9, and Sarah Humbert, 8, also paid for baby resuscitation kits.
"I want to help babies grow and get healthy," Natalia said after making her purchase. "It made me feel happy and warm because I'm helping people."
The Activity Days leader, Arminda Shepherd, said the children used their savings to make the donations.
"I wanted to teach them that Christmastime is not all about receiving but also giving," she said, "because a gift was given to us, the Son of God."
Woodruff said some of the most popular items purchased this year include:
• Livestock/animals (goats, cows, chickens): $517,023
• Meals: $207,974
• Sewing machines: $75,465
• Water bottles: $53,150
• Polio vaccines: $35,986
"We are thrilled with the enthusiastic and generous response worldwide to the #LightTheWorld giving machines," Woodruff said in a written statement released Tuesday morning. "We are truly touched by the willingness of people to follow the example of our Savior Jesus Christ and make a difference this Christmas season."
The giving machines will remain open in each location through the end of the month.
Missionaries from the Utah Salt Lake City Mission help donors operate the machines. On Tuesday afternoon, Elder Utanda Mbambu, 22, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, joined the effort.6 comments on this story
"People love this," he said. "They know they can help people in other countries like in Africa. I am very happy to see people buy chickens and buy medicine to help others, especially refugees."
Lines full of donors form in the late afternoons and evenings in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building each weekday. The best time to make a donation without waiting or with a short wait is during school hours, though Christmas break begins for most Utah schools over the next couple of days.